Tag Archive for: front running bias in handicap chases

The Importance of Pace in Three Mile Handicap Chases

After a break of a few months I am back to look at some more pace angles in an attempt to find potentially profitable avenues, writes Dave Renham. My last pace article looked at handicap chases at up to 2m 1½f; this time, I will focus on longer distance (2m 7f to 3m 3f) handicap chases.

The data I have researched is from the past five years (2014 to 2018) for UK racing, using the Geegeez Gold Query tool.

When I talk about pace I mean the initial pace in a race, and specifically the position horses take up early on. The pace data on Geegeez is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each section.

The first set of data to share contains overall pace statistics for handicap chases of 2m 7f to 3m 3f for the period of study (a minimum number of six runners in a race).

[N.B. It should be noted that when using the Geegeez Query tool you currently need to enter the parameters 3m to 3m 2f. The Query tool uses increments of 2 furlongs and when you put in 3m - 3m2f it actually covers races from 2m 7f to 3m 3f]


Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 2282 430 18.84 1.68
Prominent (3) 4894 626 12.79 1.14
Mid Division (2) 2076 160 7.71 0.75
Held Up (1) 5086 406 7.98 0.71



Despite the fact we are looking at long distance handicap chases, we can clearly see that horses which led or disputed the lead early have a definite edge. Prominent racers have a fairly decent record too, while horses more patiently ridden early tend to underperform.


Best performing tracks for front runners (2m7f - 3m3f handicap chases)

As when I looked at 2m – 2m 1½f pace data, there are significant differences in the course figures for these contests, with some courses being much more suited to early leaders and front runners than others. Here are the courses with the best strike rates in terms of front runners at the circa three mile range (minimum 25 front runners to qualify):


Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Carlisle 54 15 27.8
Sedgefield 26 7 26.9
Taunton 67 18 26.9
Kelso 62 16 25.8
Newton Abbot 69 17 24.6
Wincanton 79 19 24.1
Hexham 84 19 22.6
Plumpton 62 14 22.6
Lingfield Park 32 7 21.9
Ascot 48 10 20.8
Newcastle 45 9 20.0


For record the strike rate for Fakenham for front runners was 28.6%, but there were only 21 races so it has not been included in the table due to too small a sample.

Looking at the courses with the best impact values (IV) offers a potentially more accurate measure of front running bias. [For more information on Impact Value, click here]


Course Impact value for Front runners
Carlisle 2.46
Taunton 2.28
Kelso 2.20
Ascot 2.14
Hexham 2.14
Wincanton 2.09
Sedgefield 2.06
Newton Abbot 2.00
Cheltenham 1.95
Hereford 1.89
Uttoxeter 1.88
Lingfield Park 1.85



As can be seen, the strike rate and IV lists are very similar, with Carlisle, Taunton, Kelso, Ascot, Hexham, Wincanton, Sedgefield, Newton Abbot and Lingfield Park appearing on both.


Poorest performing tracks for front runners (2m7f - 3m3f handicap chases)

At the other end of the scale below are the courses with the poorest stats for early leaders/front runners in handicap chases of 2m 7f – 3m 3f:


Course Front Runners Wins SR%
Fontwell Park 52 7 13.5
Cheltenham 67 9 13.4
Huntingdon 56 7 12.5
Aintree 33 4 12.1
Bangor-on-Dee 66 8 12.1
Wetherby 57 6 10.5
Sandown Park 39 4 10.3


Sandown and Wetherby have not been favourable for front runners it seems, but again let us delve into the Impact Values to help to substantiate the picture. The table below shows courses that have an IV of less than 1.20 for front runners/early leaders.


Course Impact value for Front runners
Fontwell Park 1.03
Bangor-on-Dee 1.01
Huntingdon 1.01
Sandown Park 0.95
Wetherby 0.92



Just five courses with moderate IVs and, essentially, these figures suggest that front runners at these courses win roughly as often as they should given a fair playing field (an IV of 1.00 is ‘standard’). Hence, according to the Impact Values the remaining 36 courses all have an edge for front runners varying from a small edge to a considerable one.


Course Pace Averages (CPA)

So far, I have focused solely on front runners, but now I want to try and give a more rounded course and distance profile for each course. To do this I have once again created course pace averages.

These are complied by adding up the Geegeez pace scores of all the winners at a particular course and dividing it by the total number of races. The higher the average score, the more biased the course and distance is to horses that lead early or race close to the pace. Here are all the courses listed, in course pace average (CPA) order:


Course CPA Course CPA
Fakenham 3.14 Sandown Park 2.65
Sedgefield 3.06 Uttoxeter 2.64
Hereford 3.00 Chepstow 2.64
Taunton 2.93 Hexham 2.61
Ascot 2.89 Musselburgh 2.61
Doncaster 2.89 Exeter 2.60
Wincanton 2.88 Kempton Park 2.60
Lingfield Park 2.88 Newbury 2.57
Market Rasen 2.88 Towcester 2.56
Plumpton 2.87 Fontwell Park 2.53
Cartmel 2.83 Catterick 2.52
Warwick 2.82 Huntingdon 2.50
Stratford 2.80 Leicester 2.50
Perth 2.76 Ffos Las 2.49
Newcastle 2.75 Cheltenham 2.49
Kelso 2.74 Wetherby 2.46
Southwell 2.73 Bangor-on-Dee 2.43
Carlisle 2.73 Aintree 2.42
Newton Abbot 2.71 Worcester 2.41
Haydock Park 2.69 Ayr 2.23
Ludlow 2.69


These averages arguably give a more overall pace ‘feel’ to each course – as noted earlier, Fakenham (which tops the list) has had few races in reality.

It is interesting to note that Carlisle is only joint 17th on this list having been top in terms of front runner stats. This is because 20 of the 46 races have been won by horses that gained a pace figure of either 1 or 2. The fact that there have been 15 wins for front runners has been negated somewhat by this, aided notably by the moderate performance of prominent runners (just 6 wins from 46 races).

Taking all the information at hand, I would suggest that the following four courses offer the strongest pace bias – Sedgefield, Ascot, Taunton and Wincanton.


Ascot’s overall figures are worth sharing as an example:

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 48 10 20.83 2.14
Prominent (3) 78 10 12.82 1.33
Mid Division (2) 51 1 1.96 0.22
Held Up (1) 108 6 5.56 0.57


Having all the Ascot stats at our fingertips helps to illustrate how strong a bias there has been in recent years with 20 of 27 races won by horses that led early or raced prominently – this equates to 74%.


2m7f - 3m3f handicap chase pace data, by field size

Before I close, I want to share some different ‘splits’ in terms of number of runners. The data I have looked at for this article has come from races with 6 or more runners, so is quite a wide range. In the following three tables I have split the 2m 7f – 3m 3f handicap chase pace results into races of 6 to 8 runners, 9 to 11, and 12 runners or more.

6 to 8 runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 1233 267 21.7 1.51
Prominent (3) 2296 347 15.1 1.05
Mid Division (2) 548 63 11.5 0.82
Held Up (1) 1967 202 10.3 0.72


9 to 11 runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 703 111 15.8 1.55
Prominent (3) 1643 188 12.4 1.12
Mid Division (2) 746 60 8.0 0.80
Held Up (1) 1867 147 7.9 0.77


12+ runners

Pace comment Runners Wins SR% IV
Led (4) 346 52 15.0 2.12
Prominent (3) 955 91 9.5 1.35
Mid Division (2) 782 37 4.7 0.67
Held Up (1) 1252 57 4.5 0.64


Interestingly, the 12 or more runner group has comfortably the highest Impact Value for front runners, notwithstanding the understandably lower strike rate. Therefore, these data suggest that the front running bias increases as field size increases. I wonder who would have thought that?

  • Dave Renham

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